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Accessibility Features in Blackboard Learn
The goal of Blackboard Learn is to provide an accessible platform for students and instructors for equal access to online courses. Instructors have some responsibility to make their course content accessible. Students need to ask for accommodations if they need them. Find out how you can create and participate in inclusive learning experiences by using the accessibility features in Blackboard Learn.
Blackboard is fully committed to ensuring that our platform contains no barriers for users with disabilities and is both usable and accessible by everyone, regardless of age, ability, or situation. Blackboard measures and evaluates accessibility levels using two sets of standards: Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act issued from the United States federal government and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) issued by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
The linked resources are available in English only.
Design accessible content
The following list includes the top five things you need to know about designing accessible content:
- If you are adding images to your content, you must define alternative (alt) text for them. Alt text should be simple and succinct, and describe exactly what the image is. Example alt="photograph of a Cell Dividing." If an image is a diagram that conveys more complicated information, a long description or textual format of the material is required.
- If you are adding video or other multi-media content to your course, you must include descriptive captions for the content to ensure users with hearing impairments can consume it.
- One of the top complaints from students with visual impairments is the inability to consume attached files. Format attached documents with appropriate headings to ensure they can be properly consumed by screen readers. When creating your documents, use the Formatting and Style options available in Microsoft Office, Adobe, or other word processing tools to define appropriate headings and lists.
- Properly tag attached PDF files to ensure their structures can be read by screen readers. Simple methods for "print" or "save" to PDF create a single image of the file. While the document looks like it is properly structured, the screen reader is not able to interact with or read any of the material. To learn more about making accessible PDF documents, see Meet PDF Accessibility Standards on the Adobe Acrobat website.
- Be sure that you provide your students with clear expectations, instructions, and directions for all assignments and tests. Students with cognitive impairments or learning disabilities can have trouble focusing on even simple tasks. Clear directions and understandable expectations can help them focus, making them much more likely to succeed.
Using Blackboard Learn with a hearing impairment
While the Blackboard Learn product does not auto-caption media files, it does provide full support for captions in all media types that you can upload or view within your course content.
Using Blackboard Learn with a visual impairment
The following list includes the top five things to know about using Blackboard with a visual impairment:
- Blackboard Learn is developed against the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to ensure its compatibility with the latest versions of assistive technology including screen readers such as JAWS and VoiceOver.
- Pages in Blackboard Learn follow a common structure to ensure familiarity as you navigate through the system. A combination of headings and ARIA landmarks are used to define the structure of the page. Features such as the global navigation menu and Quick Links can help with faster, more efficient navigation. All keyboard navigation follows commonly used web navigation models.
- The Quick Links feature goes beyond traditional skip links, allowing you to jump directly to any heading or ARIA landmark on the current page. You can open Quick Links with a keyboard shortcut (Shift+Alt+L) from anywhere in a page so that it's always easy to move around.
- Alt tags are used to identify all images used within Blackboard Learn. When instructors are building course content, they are prompted to add alt text to images they upload, as well to ensure visual information is available to all users.
- If you have defined high contrast settings on your computer, you can enable high contrast styles on the login page of Blackboard Learn. Doing so will inform the system to respect your operating system selections to ensure the best visual experience based on your personal needs.
Using Blackboard Learn with a mobility impairment
The following list includes the top five things to know about using Blackboard with a mobility impairment:
- Keyboard navigation throughout the Blackboard Learn system follows common web navigation models to ensure consistency and familiarity with other web-based experiences.
- Quick links will aggregate up a list of all the headings and landmarks on the page. This allows you to quickly find and navigate to elements in the middle of the page. You can open Quick Links with a keyboard shortcut (Shift+Alt+L) from anywhere in the page so that it's always easy to move around.
- Keyboard shortcuts are available for a variety of tools in Blackboard Learn to increase efficiency for keyboard users. Keyboard shortcuts are specific to the current page or tool in use. Discover them by opening the Quick Links tool (Shift+Alt+L).
- Located on every page where you can reorder items using drag-and-drop function, the keyboard accessible reordering tool displays the items on the page as a list. You can use keyboard commands to reorder the items.
Using Blackboard Learn with a learning disability
The following list includes the top five things to know about using Blackboard with a learning disability:
- When you are in a course, you can collapse the course menu to reduce the clutter on the page and help you focus on the task at hand. Bring the menu back at any time by holding your mouse on the left of the screen and selecting the bar that appears. This control is also accessible with a keyboard.
- Menu options, buttons, and controls that are not always needed only appear when the items they relate to receive focus from either the mouse or keyboard. This helps reduce the visual noise on the page and ensures access to the menus as soon as you need them.
- Activity counters within the global navigation menu and My Blackboard tools can alert you to new items or information requiring your attention. As you review these items, the counters are cleared so that you are always aware of what is new or has changed since you last accessed the system.
- If your system is enabled, you can set up individual notifications for new content, due dates, discussion posts, and other items within Blackboard Learn to alert you to information even when you are not logged into the system. These notifications are sent to you by email, shown in My Blackboard updates, or the Notifications Dashboard. If Blackboard Connect is installed, you can receive alerts by text message.
- The Blackboard Learn system allows instructors to set up accommodations for tests based on individual needs. If you require more time, more attempts, different display options, or an alternative testing location, contact your instructor.
Accessibility features in Blackboard Learn
As a student or an instructor, awareness and use of these features and tools creates an accessible environment for success.
My Blackboard aggregates information from across the Blackboard Learn system and focuses on the individual user. From a single place, users can get a quick overview of everything related to various tools and courses, as well as their academic or institutional network and community. This allows users to respond, review, and directly interact with the information presented there. Activity counters quickly call attention to items requiring a user's attention since he last accessed My Blackboard. Having a single place to go can simplify the overall experience for students with disabilities and help them feel more focused on the tasks they need to complete. Students can get an overview of outstanding information before diving into the details of their courses.
The global navigation menu refers to the set of links that appears at the top of the Blackboard Learn interface. To access it, select your name or use a keyboard shortcut. This menu provides a consistent, quick, and easy way to find information. You can also navigate to tools like My Blackboard, your courses, and even some personal settings from anywhere in the system.
With adaptive release, instructors can create individualized learning paths for students. Adaptive release controls the release of content to students based on a set of rules an instructor creates. The rules may be related to availability, date and time, individual users, group membership, scores or attempts on any Grade Center item, calculated columns in the Grade Center, or review status of an item in the course. Instructors can use adaptive release to target alternative content formats or additional materials directly to the students who need them.
Located in the top left of the interface, the Quick Links icon opens a list of all the ARIA landmarks, as well as an outline of all content headings on the page you are viewing. Any available keyboard shortcuts for the current tool or page also appear. You can quickly locate any heading or section within any page in the Blackboard Learn application and jump directly to it. Quick Links is specific to the page you are viewing. You can open it at any time with a keyboard shortcut (Shift+Alt+L). This shortcut provides a significant increase in efficiency for users who rely primarily on their keyboards for navigating within the application.
New settings appear on the Test and Survey Options pages called Test/Survey Availability Exceptions. With these settings, instructors can select one or more groups or students and make a number of exceptions to the already established availability settings for a test or survey. Exceptions provide an accommodation to a student with a disability, such as allowing more time or attempts on the test, or providing accommodation for technology and language differences.
Keyboard accessible reordering
Located on every page where you can reorder items using drag-and-drop function, the keyboard accessible reordering tool displays the items on the page as a list. You can use keyboard commands to reorder the items.
YouTube player controls
The YouTube mashup allows an instructor to search for and embed YouTube videos directly in course content. When the video is displayed, students can use the accessible player controls that allow them to play, pause, stop, and control the volume of a video with a keyboard or screen reader. They are not required to interact with the more challenging Flash based controls that are present with the default YouTube videos.
You can configure Blackboard to send out notifications through a variety of channels, informing users about changes to their courses. Notifications are specific to the individual user, so both instructors and students can set what notifications are sent to them, as well as when and how they want to receive notifications. Users can select a link within a notification and go directly to the individual item without the need to consume all the surrounding content. When integrated with Blackboard Connect, users can optionally receive notifications by text (SMS), text-to-voice, and telephone. These capabilities allow all users to understand what is happening with their courses in the medium that is most comfortable for them.
Display options and content folders
Instructors can control the visual display of content on content pages or within folders in their courses. Options include showing only the text, showing only an icon to represent a content object, and showing both the text and the icon. With a lot of content on a page, students with cognitive disabilities can find it challenging to consume the information. Instructors can use folders and formatting to control the amount of clutter and help students to focus on one element at a time.
The content editor in Blackboard Learn is based on third-party technology from TinyMCE. It provides accessible controls, as well as keyboard shortcuts for formatting content created within it. The editor properly cleans up unnecessary HTML code that may be included when content is copied from Microsoft Office documents. This clean HTML ensures that screen reader users can fully consume any content created in or copied into the editor.
The formatting controls in the editor also ensure that headings added to content by an instructor do not conflict with the overall semantic structure of the page the content is displayed in. Building accessible content within a course is key to the success of all students. The content editor helps ensure that any content you create within it meets user and system expectations.
High contrast styles
On the login page for the Blackboard Learn system, you can choose to enable a high contrast setting. This ensures the system uses the contrast settings you already defined in your operating system to display text, menus, and other navigation controls within the Blackboard Learn environment. For users with visual impairments, the contrast settings defined within the operating system likely provide the most comfortable manner to view and consume information. The high contrast support in Blackboard Learn allows you to continue to use them.